Why I Proposed Without a Ring
Jen and I got engaged last year on a Thursday when I caught her slightly off-guard with a question she knew was coming. She’s not a person who likes surprises, and I’m awful at hiding them, but the time and way it happened was perfect for the both of us. My proposal, however, did not include a ring. There were some words exchanged and tears, but no rock. Kind of lame, right? Well, here’s why I did it that way and why I’m glad I did.
Men and women should propose in whatever way they like and think their partner will like as well. But the tradition around men proposing in opposite-sex couples is one I’ve always found retrograde and counter to how Jen and I make decisions in our life. Nevertheless, I knew we’d be participating in this tradition in some form, and that Jen deserved a proposal. So I asked her to marry me and told her that we’d be designing her perfect engagement ring together. It was like “The Gift of the Magi” if instead of being really poor and selfless, the two in the couple are just really nervous and particular.
Prior to the proposal, I had been in touch with a jeweler I knew Jen liked about starting the process of making a custom engagement ring. Once Jen said yes, we started talking about the specific details she liked—some of which I knew and others that I didn’t—and the details I liked. In the process, we went from a diamond to a lab-grown diamond to the eventual sapphire stone that Jen now wears. The jeweler and I would communicate back and forth about details, and Jen and I would discuss the ideas and sketches the jeweler sent.
The whole process took about five months from start to finish with Jen only recently getting her custom-made ring. So, it took some time, but it was very much worth it. We also loved being able to make something there’s only one of and purchase it from an independent jeweler and would therefore highly recommend getting an engagement ring custom-made and supporting a small business. The sapphire was even from Montana and ethically-sourced.
Designing, purchasing, and presenting an item your partner will wear for the rest of her life was entirely too daunting for me. I know generally what Jen likes and doesn’t like, but she’s a much better authority on the subject than I am, so a piece for her should have her input. I know that, in couples, the proposing party often has intel from the partner or from friends or family members. But to me, all this guesswork, cryptic questioning, and source-gathering just in the interest of surprise seemed silly and unnecessary.
Again, I have friends who have executed the ring-buying and box-opening proposal flawlessly, and for many, the way I proposed would not be satisfying. But for us, the traditional way would not have ended with a ring we both think is perfect and that we both worked to create. I broke all kinds of norms with no elaborate secrecy, no ring at the proposal, and no diamond, but in trying to do my part to help millennials ruin everything departing from these traditions was a choice I’m happy I made and happy that Jen and I made together.